Philadelphia – On Monday, March 4, 2013, jury selection began for the trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor that has been charged with killing one patient and seven babies purportedly born alive.
The 72-year-old defendant, Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been charged with third-degree murder in one woman's 2009 case involving a botched abortion. Dr. Gosnell is also facing the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder in the newborns' cases.
The jury selection began on Monday and given the sensitivity to the abortion issue and the death penalty, it should take a week. Common Pleas Judge Minehart quickly dismissed a number of potential jurors who felt their religious or moral beliefs would affect their views on the case.
Dr. Gosnell has pleaded not guilty and contends that he has helped many vulnerable women and teens obtain much needed medical care, and this includes later-stage abortions.
Under Pennsylvania's abortion laws, abortions are banned after 24 weeks. The authorities have reason to believe that some of the abortions performed at Gosnell's clinic did involve third-trimester pregnancies. In a 2011 grand jury report, it gives specifics on one case in particular where Gosnell allegedly made a joke stating that the baby was so big it could walk to the bus stop.
In a report nearly 300 pages long, the clinic was described as being a gruesome, filthy, blood-stained facility with a collection of fetal body parts stored in glass jars.
In court Monday, Gosnell appeared warm and friendly, nicely dressed and relaxed. Gosnell grew up the only child of a government clerk and a gas station operator. He was the top student at Central High School, and he became an abortion rights advocate in the 1960s and 1970s. He ultimately opened a clinic in the impoverished Mantua neighborhood after spending some time in New York City.
Gosnell's Women's Medical Center offered services to immigrants, the poor, teens and others, and those in need were treated even when they couldn't afford to pay. Gosnell told the Philadelphia Daily News in a March 2010 interview that he feels that in the long term he will be vindicated.
The opening statements are scheduled to begin on March 14th, and the trial could last as long as eight weeks. A former clinic employee is also on trial; she is being charged with practicing medicine without a license. Eight other individuals have already pleaded guilty to murder or lesser counts, and some are expected to testify against Dr. Gosnell.
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